Blaster Master Zero 3 (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Michael McCann 26.09.2021

Review for Blaster Master Zero 3 on Nintendo Switch

Despite the original Blaster Master on NES eventually reaching a cult status after a span of 20-odd years no less, no fan of it ever expected to hear that it was returning in 2017; and much less two more times subsequently henceforth. Well, here's some news for those people - Blaster Master is back, baby! Blaster Master Zero 3 is the third instalment in the successful modern revival/reboot/reimagining of the original NES title that was released early on into the lifecycle of the Nintendo Switch. The light-hearted story about a boy, his frog, and a tank (by jove!) has, across the course of the three most recent-est games, expanded to include a deep lore and a steady stream of anime tropes ripped straight out of the Big Book of Anime Tropes. Inti Creates have proven themselves to be a capable pair of hands when it comes to this type of retro throwback deal, underrated even, understanding what elements make a modern game feel like it is authentically from the past. They do this whilst also eschewing many grievances that most have grown out of over time, but is this going to be enough to elevate this title from being just one more for all the masters of blaster; the Blaster Master fans?

At its core the structure and gameplay, for all intents and purposes, remain pretty much unchanged from its predecessors. It's going to contain one third of a side scrolling platformer, in and out of the tank, about one third top-down shooter, one sixth of boss battles, and then the final one sixth is just cool, full screen animations of the Sophia III tank driving through blast doors in an iconic fashion. Although it may be essentially the same formula on paper, in practice that doesn't make it any less compelling than the earlier counterparts. Remember what happened with New Coke? That was a PR disaster, and it was backpedalled fairly quickly upon error, and much like the original Coke, something does just work with the formula here.

Screenshot for Blaster Master Zero 3 on Nintendo Switch

Identify a location on the map, navigate through enemies and obstacles to get there, exit tank, enter doorway. The action then switches to a top-down perspective to manoeuvre, shoot 'em up style, and survive gauntlet-like rooms to get to an equally dangerous boss room. Fight boss, kill boss, pick up reward/character upgrade, repeat. It is a well-oiled machine by anyone's standard now three games in, but it's hard not to argue that the pacing of the loop is cooked to perfection at this point; and if it ain't broke… There are other ways, however, that Blastermaster Zero 3 does manage to break up the sameness from earlier titles, but at the very surface level this can be hard to discern at first blush.

Many assets and enemies are reused from the older games which can feel like déjà vu in action, and it is likely going to blur the memory of these games in hindsight, but in actuality, when comparing screenshots of this side-by-side with the others, one can notice that everything in Zero 3 just has a much higher level of polish, with better detail and harmony, particularly in the good pixel graphics department - and certainly, Inti Creates is no slouch when it comes to the good pixel graphics department, if the rest of its portfolio is anything to go by.

Screenshot for Blaster Master Zero 3 on Nintendo Switch

One could be remiss in thinking that Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart was the only title to release this year to feature a prominent portal mechanic in it, and that it could only be achieved with the power of PS5 and its super fast m.2 hard drive. This assertion is patently wrong, though, and whomever thinks that way is wrong, because Blaster Master Zero 3 runs on much less powerful hardware, and it too has portals coming out of the wazoo. This feature is chiefly how Blaster Master Zero 3 distinguishes itself from Blaster Master Zero and Blaster Master Zero 2. Portals operate much in the classic dark world/light world way and would be familiar to anyone who has been playing video games for any substantial length of time.

Entering one of these portals will reconfigure a level in some manner, and create additional challenge as Jason's life gauge will deprecate when he's inside. It can get pretty hairy and disorienting inside these portals trying to figure out what has changed, and where to go within this time limit, and there is also the possibility of being attacked. This challenge is ramped by an occasionally harsh checkpoint system, which, although a minor gripe, can place progress a bit further back than one would hope. This can be especially true for silly deaths, like a misjudgement of Jason's laughably, but also classic, short falling distance.

Screenshot for Blaster Master Zero 3 on Nintendo Switch

That being said, this is noticeably a hard deal, something for which it's prequels, in their time, were criticised for not being enough of; it's another characteristic that differentiates Zero 3 from the rest of the trilogy. It'll throw enemies out thick and fast, sometimes even to an absurd degree, and managing them will seem daunting. Thankfully, health and power pick-ups are fairly abundant and farmable, so there is always a chance of scraping through the difficult sections. Different enemies will be susceptible to different attacks as well, so learning these will allow an extra edge in battle.

Weapons need to be switched often and can now be assigned to two of the shoulder buttons, which mitigates having to dip into the menu a lot the time just to do this. Switching weapons and tactics can often be a key factor between success and failure. Sometimes Blaster Master Zero 3 does stick a bit too rigidly to its retro heritage, however, like as such with these added buttons the control scheme can at times feel at odds with the game design itself. It's awkward, and yet there is an element in this awkwardness that also kind of feels right. It feels cosy. Perhaps it's the nostalgia talking.

Screenshot for Blaster Master Zero 3 on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Blaster Master Zero 3 heavily expects its audience to have played the first two titles in the modern Blaster Master series, so it's hard not to bring them up when writing about the former. Small localisation errors and a couple of obtuse navigation moments aside, it is the most polished title in the series and long-time fans, plus people who grew up with the NES, will appreciate the added challenge. It's never too hard to tackle, however, although it's commitment to being "retro" can be a double-edged sword in some instances, like when a death can be blamed on unintentionally sticking to a wall and then sliding down into an abyss. The gameplay loop is just as fun as it ever was, though, so more of that can't ever be a bad thing. It might get ignored for being the third instalment, or not seeming as fresh as the next retro indie darling that's hot for this week, but it really shouldn't be. This is bona fide retro goodness at its finest. Blaster Master 4Ever!

Also known as

Blaster Master Zero 3

Developer

Inti Creates

Publisher

SunSoft

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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